News archive

January 2016

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Merseyside, it's time to join in the world's largest wildlife survey

Merseyside, it's time to join in the world's largest wildlife survey

People in Merseyside taking part in this year's Big Garden Birdwatch will be helping to provide conservation scientists with valuable data about the changes in numbers of birds using our gardens in winter, enabling them to help protect our wildlife for future generations.

More than half a million people are expected to watch and count their garden birds this weekend in what is the world's largest garden wildlife survey.

For almost forty years, the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch has helped raise awareness of those species in decline like starlings and song thrushes, whose numbers have dropped by an alarming 80 and 70 per cent respectively since the Birdwatch began in 1979

There is slightly better news for the house sparrow, as its long term decline appears to have slowed and it remains the most commonly spotted bird in our gardens. However, its numbers have dropped by 58 per cent since 1979

Dr Daniel Hayhow, RSPB Conservation Scientist, said: "Last year's survey was another great year for participation. More than half a million people took part and more than 8.5 million birds were spotted in gardens across the country.

"With so many people now taking part, the results we get from gardens are very valuable. And as the format of the survey has always been the same, this data can be compared year-on-year. The results help us create an annual 'snapshot' of bird numbers across the UK, which, combined with over 30 years' worth of data, allows us to monitor trends and understand how birds are doing."

With the last month of 2015 being reported as the wettest and warmest December on record but with temperatures since varying between freezing and unseasonable mild, the results from Big Garden Birdwatch will also help the charity understand how these unusual weather conditions have affected birds visiting gardens this winter.

Ben Andrew, RSPB Wildlife Advisor, said: "If the UK experiences a continuation of these milder temperatures, those taking part in Big Garden Birdwatch may notice their gardens quieter than in other years. The milder weather means that there is more food available in the wider countryside, with birds being less reliant on garden feeders. However, winter is a hard time for our garden wildlife so it's still vital that people keep their feeders stocked up with a variety of energy-rich food so birds can find food whatever the weather. Either way, mild or cold, it will be fascinating to see how the birds respond this weekend."

For the third year running, the RSPB is also asking participants to log some of the other wildlife they see in their gardens throughout the year such as hedgehogs, foxes, stoats and squirrels, to help build an overall picture of how important gardens are for giving nature a home. The RSPB will share the results with Amphibian & Reptile Conservation (ARC), People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and The Mammal Society to add to their species databases. Results will help all the organisations involved build their understanding about the threats facing garden wildlife

Dr Fiona Mathews, Chair of The Mammal Society, said: "Gardens can offer fantastic habitat for wild mammals, simply leave things a bit untidy and watch what happens. For example, a bramble patch and a pile of fallen leaves can provide a good nesting site for hedgehogs, whilst bats will feed on night flying-insects attracted to blackberry flowers."

Dr John Wilkinson, from Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC), said: "It's great to see that the Big Garden Birdwatch is again recording species such as grass snakes and slow-worms, whose habitats are declining in the wider countryside. Gardens are crucial habitats for much of the UK's pressured biodiversity and you can, for example, encourage slow-worms into your garden by having a compost heap which is left undisturbed over the summer so they can give birth there - they will repay you by demolishing your slugs! If you're lucky, grass snakes may even use your heap for egg-laying."

David Wembridge, Mammal Surveys Co-ordinator, People's Trust for Endangered Species, said: "Mammals are a less showy lot than birds but their presence in gardens is just as important an indicator of the natural value of these green spaces. Recording wildlife as part of the Big Garden Birdwatch lets us see how rich, surprising and precious our wild neighbours are."

The survey is part of the RSPB's Giving Nature a Home campaign, aimed at tackling the housing crisis facing the UK's threatened wildlife. The RSPB is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces - whether it's putting up a nest box for birds, creating a pond to support a number of different creatures or building a home for a hedgehog. The Big Garden Birdwatch is just one of the steps you can take to help nature near you.

To take part, simply request a free pack from the RSPB website or register your details to save time on the weekend.

The RSPB will be live blogging throughout the weekend and offering downloadable bird song on their website as a soundtrack for the bird watch. If you fancy a sweet treat whilst counting the birds, delicious new cake recipes from Frances Quinn, winner of the Great British Bake Off 2013, will also be available on our website. For more information, visit

The parallel event, Big Schools' Birdwatch takes place on 4 January- 12 February 2016. Further information can be found at

Sunday, 3 January 2016

So how was your year?

So how was your year?

Feeling in a reflective mood as I sit looking out the window on this dreary January Sunday - well it's what you do at new year, put the old year to bed, bank the good memories and plan for the new.
Despite the foul weather, my garden birds are battling on, the goldfinches (counted over 20 today with a sprinkling of greenfinches too) have taken to picking the seeds from the evening primrose stalks and I've just seen a male house sparrow pass a mealworm to a female, early courtship because of recent mild weather perhaps?

This time last year, the weather was drier and colder and we had an honorary member with us - remember Monty Adelie who went to live with our Fran.

My year, like probably most of you, had highs and lows. But I'm only going to pick out some of the highlights from my year.

Monty Adelie our endearing penguin gifted from Lewis's brought a smile to our faces and raised the group a lot of dosh!

Getting a great and unusual view of a female scoter sitting on the tide line (sadly appeared unwell, waterlogged) straight after seeing the snow buntings on the beach on the Wirral.

It was a miserable day in March when I joined the wildflower centre and friends of Everton Park to scatter wildflower seed on Everton Park, but I enjoyed watching it develop over the year, cumulating in the land life tale of two cities celebration day in July.

Our RSPB Croatia trip in May, what can I say- lovely scenery, great birds and good chums. Fond memories of sitting quietly alone, awestruck, listening to nightingales in an olive grove at 7am, an then standing in a dark churchyard searching for scops owls. Wandering through mountain gorges, visiting wetlands, and then there was Pag Island - griffon vultures and the wonderful wryneck.

If you haven't been away with us before, why not review the past blogs; we've been to some wonderful places, Norfolk, Cairngorms, Mull, Croatia, and Hungary. .. Maybe join us in future?

A particular happy memory was coming across a nifty stoat in Clock face Country Park, heaving his rabbit dinner back home...small but mighty!

Walking around the coastal path of Anglesey during summer watching peregrines, choughs and ravens. Saving a hedgehog from certain death, as it had become stuck down a cattle grid, I'll never walk across a grid again without looking down... A trip to Penmon point & Puffin Island on a beautiful spring day seabirds galore including puffins and eider ducks.

Attending the Hen Harrier weekend in August in support of our hen harriers, and other persecuted birds of prey and wildlife. Proud to be part of RSPB Liverpool standing up for nature (the only RSPB group who took a bus load of members by the way)

Enough from me, if anybody would like to share a few happy/exciting memories with the group; I will post it on our January blog page
Don't forget were also have a twitter account @RSPBLiverpool, and our group is now on WhatsApp, a real-time info portal to find out what's about, certainly has been well used today, pallas warbler, black throated diver, Caspian gull. Once registered on the site call Chris Tynan and he'll add you to our group RSPB Lpool- Local Birds. Enjoy

Hope 2016 brings you all you could wish for, birdie or otherwise!